“It’s easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar” is an oft-repeated adage, one that reminds us that people respond to a friendly demeanor more readily than they do to an aggressive one. This calls for exemplary communication skills— a factor that is essential for all interpersonal relationships, but is especially vital for a successful company-customer interaction. It isn’t enough to have a great product—companies have to also nurture and cultivate relationships with existing and potential buyers to ensure said product’s marketability. In fact, more and more companies and major brands have started to view stellar customer service as part of the product package, and of the customer’s overall experience of the brand. Improve Your Service Skills Customers will overlook and forgive a lot if service is good. Here are some key customer service skills whose importance and application are universal. Active listening: even the best companies run into problems with their customers; after all, any intervention is bound to have glitches. This is when you get upset customers. They have eagerly anticipated buying your product, and are disappointed with it for some reason. When dealing with an irate customer, the service provider can either fan the flames or douse them. The best way to disarm an angry customer and to preempt any drama is to engage in active listening. This is a technique that involves paying close attention to the other person’s body language and tone of voice. If they seem agitated, stay calm. After listening to what they have had to say, repeat it to them in an even tone of voice, to ensure that you have properly understood what they are saying. Thinking on your feet: being able to respond appropriately and speedily to queries and complaints can help mollify angry customers and diffuse tension. This is normally much easier to do if you have been listening actively! Active listening encourages a proactive approach to solving problems. You don’t have to ask the customer to repeat herself, and you can start customizing a solution even before she has completed explaining the problem to you. Say it loud; say it clear: speak clearly. This might seem self-evident, but service providers often forget that they are salespeople as well—they’re selling the brand. Remember to enunciate each word clearly, and check with the customer to see if they’ve understood what you are saying. Keep your word: when you promise a customer a particular solution, make sure you follow through. The outcome of good customer service is partly psychological. The customer should be able to look back on the interaction feeling like she has been heard, and with a sense of security, knowing that she can rely on the company to honor its commitments. Go above and beyond: see if there are any extra steps you can take to make the resolution process even smoother. For example, if you can reduce the amount of time it takes the customer to contact key personnel or the number of formalities they have to go through (in any way), you have demonstrated a willingness to shoulder as much or more of the burden, as them. This makes the customer feel special, like a VIP—and it’s a feeling that few of us take for granted. Mind your Ps and Qs: manner, manners, and more manners. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a demonstration of your respect for your customer. Oftentimes people are made to feel like the company is doing them a favour by taking care of their product-related problems. A warm and polite attitude creates a good impression, not just about the company, but about its employees as well. Don’t be surprised if a satisfied customer calls you to complement your staff’s superior work ethic! In our day to day lives we are all customers of various brands and services. It is therefore useful to imagine ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and to serve them as we would like to be served.
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